I was involved with The Gnostic Movement (TGM) from early 2002 when I started as a new student through to completing all the courses and becoming a teacher in 2006 and then becoming a member in 2008 until the Movement in Australia closed down in 2013.
Participating in the Courses
My first introduction to Mark was when I took my first TGM course which was a free online 8 week course on the topic of Astral Travel and Dreams written by Mark offered through the website Mysticweb.org. I had seen a poster in the street which was advertising the free in-person courses held in Sydney NSW Australia and that they were also available to be taken for free online through the aforementioned website so that is what I did.
Finding that course amazing and wishing to continue with my personal exploration into spirituality, I went on to the online Searching Within course and then the Esoteric Wisdom course.
After finishing the first 3 courses and finding them very interesting, beneficial, and even life-changing (which I still benefit from to this day with much thanks to Mark) I took the Advanced Investigation course in the later half of 2002 which gave a chance to delve more into the practices given in the first three.
During this time, I started to get more lucid dreams and waking up in dreams experiences and some conscious projections into the astral which in my experience is a real other dimension and not some figment of the imagination or a trick of the brain. I also started to read the recommended books by Samael Aun Weor such as Revolutionary Psychology and The Great Rebellion and found them helpful and full of wisdom.
At that time the course material, which was written by Mark (Belzebuub), was delivered by way of free weekly downloads of pdfs with information and an exercise to try for the week. The information was very interesting to me and it just rang true and provided possible answers for many questions I had. I found there was a clarity and common sense to Mark’s writings and this formed my first impressions of him. What was really great also was to try the various exercises which were easy to understand. I enjoyed getting a new topic each week with an exercise to try, it was like a little adventure of discovery each week.
I always had quite an interest in psychology and Mark’s courses really helped me to see my own psychology from a fresh perspective. Mark gave deeper explanations about the workings of reality in an easy to understand way and how to make lasting positive changes to one’s psychology and therefore actions so as to truly evolve spiritually. He gave practical advice with exercises to do which helped me to begin delving further into seeing more of my own world of thoughts, self-talk, drives, motivations and reactions with the goal of becoming a better person through not acting negatively but responding to things in the most appropriate way which was advice of his I valued highly then and still do now. Again it all just rang very true with me and made a lot of sense.
Attending the Sydney Centre
In early 2003 I started attending some practice sessions at TGM’s study centre in Bondi Junction, Sydney. Some of the people I met there that first time became and still are great friends of mine. I felt like I was welcomed into a family of kindred spirits and indeed over time more and more that is what it was.
Eventually I started doing the Advanced Investigation course at the Sydney centre. I went through a time of asking loads of questions and clarifying my understandings of the teachings and making friends with fellow students and the teachers.
I also started to help on weekends with putting up posters in shops (after asking them for permission first) to advertise upcoming introductory talks.
I began the teacher training course to become a trainee teacher, starting in October 2003 because I found the teachings to be beneficial and practical over a period of time of studying them and trying them out and I wanted to help others find them like I did and benefit from them too. Also the people involved in helping to run the centre and the other students I knew were all nice and genuine people and I could see that was the case for the whole endeavour of the organisation across the world, including Mark and his courses.
As a student of the teacher training course there was an attendance requirement and a code of conduct to abide by to uphold the good reputation of the organisation, just as any other religious organisation has its standards. Nothing was forced upon me or any other students, they were decisions I made myself as I wanted to attend, to increase my involvement, and to make positive changes in my lifestyle which I maintain to this day even though TGM is no longer.
At various periods of time for those in the more advanced courses we did a regular all-night practice of astral projection once a week on the weekend in the centre for about an 8 hour period with 2 or 3 short wake ups during that time. These were really magical nights held for serious and sincere attempts at projecting with various mystical or astral experiences usually had by attendees and so were looked forward to with earnest. I usually had some sort of conscious astral experience at least once on each of these nights and it was amazing to consciously experience this other dimension. Although I might have been a little more tired the next day it wasn’t that bad like staying up late at a party or a bar as I used to but it was far more rewarding and I would just catch up on some sleep the next night.
In September 2005, I became the caretaker of the Sydney Centre. It was a great opportunity to help out more, to use the practice rooms and I enjoyed the regular activity happening there since I was otherwise living alone. By having someone live there and paying some rent it helped with the centre’s finances to keep the free courses running.
Becoming a Qualified Teacher
In mid 2006 I became a teacher of The Gnostic Movement, along with several others whom were in the trainee course with me. We had gained a good enough understanding of the teachings and how to explain them, and showed responsibility and reliability in the tasks we were given.
In practicing public speaking in the trainee course, and even more so when I was a teacher, I was a more confident person in general. As a teacher I started giving classes on my own and become more involved in the administration of running the centre and in training new trainee teachers.
I started helping with counting the donations given for the centre running costs and banking them into the centre’s account. I was taught by the other members that donations given for a certain purpose were to be used solely for that purpose, and that Mark would only ever accept donations from people donating specifically to him and never accepted general donations given to the organisation. As a teacher and later as a member dealing with the finances this is something I always strictly adhered to as did the whole organisation worldwide.
Experience as a Member of the Organisation
Eventually, I became a member of The Gnostic Movement in Australia in 2008 and became more involved in the centre administration, searching for an Australian retreat property, helping to run retreats, and joining the Australian National Co-ordinating Board. Internationally I helped in general administration tasks such as website forum comment moderating and joining the international administrative body (the International Board) which was made up of various members around the world working together to facilitate projects such as website creation, upgrades and maintenance, advertising and promotions, video work, and fund-raising.
TGM was run as a democracy with men and women treated as equals in sharing the responsibility of running the organisation. We had the benefit of the teachings of Gnosis to effectively work on eliminating our inner negativity especially in relationships which included the working relationships that existed within TGM. This made TGM a great organisation to volunteer for as everyone strived to work harmoniously and supportively with each other and with respect for giving everyone an opportunity to be heard and their ideas considered which is the way I saw Mark treat everybody at all times.
In the six and a half years from first joining the courses to becoming a member I got more involved very gradually and as a natural response to seeing the value of what Mark and TGM had to offer and coming to know how genuine he and those helping him were. The more I got involved then naturally the more busier I got, through all of which I learned and gained so much in my knowledge and experience in terms of the inner work and in life in general.
I found TGM and Mark’s teaching to always be respectful of one’s own freewill, allowing the student to exercise their own discretion and make up their own minds. Anyone was free to take it or leave it at any time and people did come and go whilst others stayed on. It made sense to me that information and exercises were given incrementally so as to have a proper knowledge of the basics and time to get experience and understanding with them before the more advanced teachings and exercises were given otherwise they might not be understood in the right context.
People were free to come or go whenever they liked, to get more involved if they wanted, nothing was ever forced and it was all free. This was quite unlike one experience I had with a commercial ontological organisation. This organisation very much forced their will on others, they had this philosophy of being ‘powerful in the face of no’ and trying to convince you to attend and pay for their expensive courses. TGM was the exact opposite.
I got more involved the more I started to experience and understand things for myself that Mark, his teachings and TGM were very honest, genuine and provided effective positive techniques for self development. My whole time with TGM was a time of great learning and beneficial growth for me and I personally know many people for whom it was the same.
Positive Benefits of the Teachings
From my own experience I can say that the teachings and exercises, taught by Mark through The Gnostic Movement courses, are very natural, they do work and are very effective. They taught that spiritual change involves consistency and diligence, keeping yourself down to earth with feet on the ground perceiving reality as it is as clearly as you can, standing upon what you have experienced, and without letting negativity or ideals or fantasy about the inner work blind you, or abandoning other responsibilities in life.
Going through these courses was like an adventure, I got so much out of each topic that it was exciting to see the next topic, there was a logical and natural progression – building exercises and understanding.
I was already interested in self-improvement before finding The Gnostic Movement. I was feeling, as a result of various situations in life, like I wanted to be a better person but didn’t know how to effectively do that. I was wanting inner peace and Mark’s free courses turned out to have very effective tools to bring that about along with gaining mystical experiences which I was also already interested in prior to these courses.
As a result of these courses by Mark I became happier, purposeful and engaged with my life. In using the techniques taught in the free courses, by the end of June 2002 I quit smoking for good and have never relapsed (that is something I was not able to do having paid for a quit smoking course elsewhere). I was also able to begin to lift myself out of harmful addictive behaviour and from lingering in grief for the sudden death separately of some close people in my life.
Compared to the path I was on previously, I became a lot more healthier as a result of being involved with TGM and going through the free courses written by Mark (Belzebuub), gaining a better appreciation for the gift of life, for my friends and family, and the need to take care of the physical body and working to improve my psychology and remove negative thoughts and behaviours, understanding sometimes learning and inner growth means having to go through adversity.
I was freely given very practical tools to help myself become a better person and more effectively seek answers to life’s deep questions which previously had always left me wondering with no idea how or if I could find out. However as a result of Mark’s courses I began to experience an interactive spiritual connection to life and everything around me. This experience continues to this day.
Throughout my 11 years being involved with The Gnostic Movement I was always in regular contact with my family and maintained a positive relationship with them (in fact I would say it got even better thanks to Mark’s teachings) and of course that is still the case now. Mark teaches the principle of making sure family members are not left in physical need as a requirement for true spirituality and that certainly resonated with me and shows the care he has for all humanity. Over time my main circle of friends changed as my interests changed from going out to pubs and nightclubs to practising meditation and the like but I still have some contact with my old friends. I was never isolated from my family or friends and was always acting according to my own free will.
Experiences with Mark
Meeting at a Retreat
I attended my first TGM retreat held in the first week of January 2007 at the Bunya Mountains in Queensland which was the first time I met Mark. He was very friendly, down to earth, and straight away put me at ease as if he could sense that I was at first feeling a little nervous. He gave some talks during the retreat to the whole group which I found very poignant and powerful such as one about not falling into fanaticism with these teachings and another around the camp fire at night about considering what your future self would say to your current self about what you need to do now to grow spiritually.
He ate his meals with all the other attendees and was happy to answer any questions any of us had but he never sought any kind of limelight or anything like that. He came across to me as being very genuinely caring, very knowledgeable, and quite humble with a good sense of humour too. I felt very grateful to have had the opportunity to personally meet the man who had written the courses and was guiding the esoteric school which was helping me so much to grow as a human being and to change in many positive ways and to see what a great example he was of what he taught.
One time during the retreat I asked him a question and his answer included repeating back to me word for word a train of thought I had months earlier on the same topic which I had never said out loud to anyone. It didn’t seem to me to be a co-incidence but was yet another indication there was something special about him along with how he was so gentle in the way he made his point.
When the retreat came to an end, he was there to say goodbye to each one of us as we got onto the bus. As we shook hands, I thanked him very much for his guidance, he paused for a very brief moment and replied with a genuine encouragement – “work hard to give the teaching to the people you speak to” – which I took as meaning to work hard on continuing to improve myself using the practices and teachings of gnosis so as to better give those teachings from experience, something which he exemplified himself. I could feel he really wished me well as he watched me step away to get on the bus before shaking hands with next person.
Visit to the Sydney Centre
The next time I met Mark was when he came to Sydney for a short visit later in 2007. We met up with him at TGM’s Sydney centre on two consecutive nights. Again he was a friendly, caring and humble person. He was quite humorous at times too and could really make you laugh.
He was also concerned for all of us, very supportive and enquired how we are going and how running the centre was going. He made some helpful suggestions such as making use of the double garage as a cafe-type space for students to gather in before and after class. Soon after we started repainting the centre, cleared the garage and turned it into a cafe area which was well used in the warmer months.
Some more good advice I remember him giving us then was along the lines of not being identified with running a centre or being a teacher as the spiritual work is not about who you are, it is about what you do. There’s a need for humbleness whilst doing your duty, something which he again exemplified.
He was concerned for the animals in Sydney zoo saying he felt they feel like they are in a prison. (Another time, separate to this visit, he expressed concern for people’s attitude to the environment and the destruction of it and the need to work in harmony with nature.)
He also spoke about his plans to go to the USA to help spread the teachings more there. As I said goodbye to him on the final night I had a one on one chat with him and he was very warm and brotherly and was thanking me for helping the centre to keep going and for the hospitality he had received.
Working in The Gnostic Movement
In meetings, Mark would put forward ideas, often just as passing comments, but always would invite others to put forward any ideas of their own or to give feedback on his ideas.
He treated us like we were all equals as we all shared the same responsibility for helping to get the teachings out into the world, each with our own roles within that overall goal. As members were generally fairly busy people holding down normal paying jobs as well as volunteering for TGM, Mark showed care by emphasising the point that we should get the rest we need and make known how much time we have for tasks so as not to be overburdened.
The Movement was run in a democratic way and all the members aimed to work harmoniously together as brothers and sisters. There were a number of women in roles of responsibility as well as men. Mark didn’t force anyone to do anything, not to defend him either, he left it up to the individual free will.
Character and Conduct
In all my dealings with Mark and in what I observed in his dealings with others, he was always a gentleman and respectful with all people, men and women. He was a shining example of his own teachings regarding the value of fidelity. His only interest was to help people. Thanks to Mark I came to understand about and wanted to uphold the sacredness of monogamy and marriage along with seeing the harmfulness of any form or degree of lust.
The Mark I know is very caring, warm, friendly and respectful to everyone he meets and deals with, a very gentle gentleman. Mark also has a fantastic sense of humour and is good company.
Mark is quite knowledgeable about history, life and spirituality and is full of wise practical advice for living a truly spiritual life which he freely gives away without trying to be any kind of guru or with any self-importance or even wanting any thanks. He can give you exactly what you need to hear at the time and in the way that you need to hear it, often times it is uncanny, and always given with genuine care.
Mark is tremendously generous with his time and with funds for supporting the spread and practising of the teachings. He is just a genuine person striving honestly for what he sees as the common good for the world without seeking any reward for it and very encouraging of those interested in the same thing.
Mark is the most genuine, friendly, honest, generous, wise, respectful, decent, humble, responsible, courageous and forgiving person I have met which just makes it all the more sadder how he has been so unjustly smeared with lies and I wish I had said and done more sooner to dispel those lies so that TGM did not have to close and so Mark was free of those attacks and the bigoted untrue labels of the anti-cult movement. Whatever his spiritual trials and achievements, Mark is still a human being. Mark being so good natured, I know he bears only love and forgiveness.
Experience in The Gnostic Movement
I was a Member of The Gnostic Movement Inc (TGM) in Australia from August 2008. I acted as Assistant Treasurer from 2009 to 2010 and then Treasurer of TGM in Australia from 2011 till the Movement closed down in 2013.
Centre and National Finances/Administration
The Gnostic Movement in Australia was first registered as an Incorporated Association in December 1999 and it was then amalgamated with the pre-existing Universal Christian Gnostic Movement of the New Order Incorporated. Both of these organisations had been established by Mark in Australia and legally merged into one organisation by him and other members. The amalgamated entity was known as The Gnostic Movement Incorporated and registered in 2000 as a not-for-profit Incorporated Association in Sydney, New South Wales.
TGM was a not-for-profit organisation, as stipulated in its registered Constitution meaning any profit would only be re-invested back into the organisation to fulfil its mission and not paid to members as dividends and also that upon winding up any assets would be transferred to another similar non-profit organisation.
The Constitution stated TGM was an esoteric organisation and an heir of the traditions of early Christianity and that its mission was for the practice and fulfilment of the spiritual work as explained by the founder of modern Gnosis, Samael Aun Weor. It also stated entrance to all lectures and courses was to be free of charge. In accordance with this the Movement was always funded solely by voluntary donations and there wasn’t any requirement to donate to be able to attend its events.
TGM was administered responsibly by the members, meeting all legal governance requirements including filing the yearly and quarterly financial reports to the relevant government regulators.
Along with the principle of only being funded by voluntary donations we also upheld the principle of only using funds for the purpose for which they were donated. All payments made from any account were by cheque which required signing by two volunteers authorised to make payments.
There were centres in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth with each centre having its own bank account. Any donations collected for the running costs of that centre were counted by two volunteers, the amount recorded and then banked into that centre’s bank account. Any operating costs for the centre were paid out of its own account.
There were donations also raised in each centre for the Movement’s national insurance which were banked into an account held for paying the Movement’s national expenses.
TGM held a number of international retreat events at cost price and attendees payments (for food and lodging costs only) for these retreats were banked into the national account with the retreat hire and catering expenses paid from it. As per Mark’s vision though we had a goal to purchase our own retreat property at which to run free retreats funded by donations in the same way the centres ran.
Monies donated for purchasing a permanent retreat property in Australia were collected in a dedicated fund established for that purpose. A PayPal facility was established on TGM’s main website for anyone to donate to the Australian permanent retreat project but donations could also be made through any centre.
One year an offer was made for attendees to pay a bit extra if they wanted to for attending one of the hired retreats with the extra amount being a donation to the Australian permanent retreat fund. In return we offered them a free retreat next time as we had hoped to have found and purchased a suitable property soon. About a year later when our retreat property search looked like taking longer than we had hoped we offered and gave refunds of those extra amounts to those who donated them.
In Sydney, people could also donate separately to Mark for which we had a dedicated donation box. These funds were kept separate from TGM’s general funds.
Each centre did its own accounting of its monthly income and expenses and all receipts and invoices were always kept and held on record. Each centre would then send its monthly accounts each quarter to the Treasurer.
Experience as Treasurer
In Sydney, as a member, I did the monthly accounting for the Sydney centre using spreadsheets (as did the other centres). As Treasurer, I did the accounting for the national accounts and collated all the data from the centres accounts and did the required reporting to the government authorities.
For one particular financial year, I organised for all the accounts to be prepared by an independent bookkeeper and then had everything audited by a registered Company Auditor (registered with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission) whom was also a Charted Accountant. Neither the bookkeeper nor the Auditor found any issues with our operations and the Auditor found the accounting and financial reports to represent a correct view of TGM’s financial performance and position.
Another year the accounts and financial reports were done by an independent accountant.
The last couple of years I did the accounts myself as there weren’t too many transactions as the centres and the Movement were winding down. As the Movement was closing down we donated all of TGM’s remaining assets to the non-profit retreat property company established by TGM which we had previously given all the retreat funds to for it to purchase and maintain a retreat property.
Sponsorship for Mark’s Work in the USA
In order for Mark to go to the USA as a missionary from Australia he had to have a religious worker visa, the conditions of which required he be paid a salary by TGM USA. He was paid a small salary just above the federal minimum wage. There was also a small housing allowance paid which brought the salary up to meet the state minimum wage requirements (that were higher than the federal) for where he was in the USA, as he worked from home. The US and Australian organizations worked together closely to arrange and support Mark’s visa sponsorship.
Mark visited the Sydney centre in July 2007 where I was and he spoke to all of us there about going to the USA soon to help spread the teachings there further, as there weren’t many centres there yet but many English-speaking people who might be interested in Gnosis. Everyone there was very supportive of this mission and wished him well with it.
Volunteers and friends of Mark’s from TGM who were already donating directly to him were asked to instead donate to The Gnostic Movement Inc Australia, which established a special fund for those donations to support his mission in the USA. The Australian organisation collected funds from people who had donated to support Mark’s work in the US, and transferred them to the US organisation, who also had a dedicated fund from which it paid the costs associated with the sponsorship.
As the sponsorship costs were funded by donations from people who gave to support Mark’s work, Mark’s own principle of being funded solely by voluntary donations was upheld even though he was legally being paid a wage. Mark himself actually donated to the US organisation out of his own inheritance and the amount covered much of the cost of his salary. Mark did not receive any general funds raised by the organisation, only funds from people who donated to support his work.
I remember hearing from the Australian members involved in co-ordinating the funds (before I was involved as the Treasurer) that Mark could only afford to live in a poor neighbourhood which had a lot of crime and there was even a shooting at a neighbouring property. The Australian and USA members were concerned for his welfare and had offered to try to pay Mark more so he could rent somewhere better but he continually refused to be paid more than the small legal minimum that was required.
General Administration Fundraising
In January 2008 it was decided by the Australian members to hold fundraising activities and to collect donations through each centre to support TGM USA which had become the organisation’s international headquarters. It was responsible for many things such as office and equipment, websites, international insurance costs, publicity and legal costs. Other centres around the world also undertook the same initiative at the time.
The centres raised funds by holding fundraising activities such as dinner/movie nights at which donations were accepted but not mandatory and also by selling off unwanted second-hand goods donated to the centres by the volunteers. This is what we typically did in Sydney to raise the funds and the other Australian centres did too, as well as occasional activities like incense-making workshops. The funds collected would be counted in each centre and then banked into the National account by those centres with a communication going to the Treasurer to explain what had been banked.
The treasurers of TGM Australia & TGM USA co-ordinated with each other to allocate the raised funds to the appropriate areas depending on the purpose for which they were donated/raised. The donations/fundraising collected for general administration expenses went to those expenses whilst the funds collected to support Mark went to covering his small salary and housing allowance.
For the funds collected in Australia, monthly overseas telegraphic transfers were done to TGM USA.
Mark had never had a salary before as he did not want one, he worked fulltime for free from the beginning of TGM in Australia. He only had a small salary in the USA as it was a requirement of the visa he was there on and it was funded from donations given to support his work and from his inheritance. Mark only received donations that were made by those who wanted to support him (as was his wish), not the general donations, and he re-directed donations he would ordinarily have received to go to TGM for it to pay its costs in having him in the USA.
By far the largest expense TGM had was all the rent it paid for its various centres around the world. Mark’s salary was quite small by any comparison and he funded most of it himself.
Australian Retreat Project
I was a founding member and director of The Gnostic Movement Inc (Australia)’s retreat property holding company.
Australian Retreat Property Search
In early October 2009, as a member of The Gnostic Movement, I took on the role of managing the search for a retreat property in NSW Australia, whilst other members managed the search in other states, and each State had a team of searchers made up of members, teachers and trainees.
Eventually I managed the whole search across the various States myself and made most of the enquiries for a time.
The organising of the retreat search was refined as needed, trying to get the best outcome because it was a genuine and sincere effort by all involved to get a retreat.
Many online search sites were divided up amongst the search team for them to search for suitable properties in any State using a set of basic criteria such as being in a quiet and private location with no mining or major developments under-way nearby. They would then send a list of potential properties through, for me to go through and investigate further.
Any properties which made the short list would then be presented to all the Australian members to consider.
Research was done by various members of the team over a period of time on various issues such as mining areas, drought, bushfire safety, sudden limb drop from trees, and road construction.
I worked on this project full-time for a year as an unpaid volunteer from October 2009 to October 2010 as I was able to fund myself at the time and did not need to work in a paid job but instead I preferred to work on this to help make an Australian Retreat property a reality. It was a valuable experience, I learned a lot and quite enjoyed investigating properties. Once I went back to full-time paid work in October 2010 and until the Movement closed down, I was still involved in managing the search, looking for properties and making enquiries albeit not on a full-time basis any more.
The search was done by individuals according to the capacity they had to work on it within reason, in terms of the time they had available for it.
By the end of October 2010 hundreds of properties had been investigated with most being rejected, and a number of properties on the short-list but all of them had various issues of one sort or another such as price, no existing infrastructure, too remote, and difficult access. The main reasons for properties being rejected was price and not enough privacy as we never really had enough funds for what we wanted compared to what was on the market and we wanted a private place where up to 100 retreat attendees could have plenty of space to relax in a peaceful and serene natural setting and without disturbing any neighbours.
By early November 2009 there was a property of interest which was thoroughly investigated, but it was too expensive for the amount of funds we had and there were concerns with bush fires.
In mid December 2009 I enquired to an agent about another large property but it turned out though that it had just been sold however the agent told me about another property which was going to be put on the market the next month and which sounded like it could potentially be the one we were looking for as it was within our price range and had plenty of acreage.
Further investigations into it showed it was still a good contender although some of the initial information about its access road turned out later on, once we visited the property, to be inaccurate and made it sound half as short and better than it actually was.
The Gnostic Movement (TGM) in Australia then established a retreat property holding company for it to purchase and develop a spiritual retreat property on behalf of TGM and at which TGM would run free retreat events. I was one of the founding members and directors of it along with two other members from the Australian TGM. TGM Australia gifted its retreat project funds to this non-profit organisation.
Thorough Investigation of Potential PropertyIn mid January 2010 a group of six people from TGM including myself went to view the property over two days. It was 2,500 acres in size with most of that to be subject to a Conservation plan of management trust agreement but approximately 250 acres could be developed with the local Council approval. The only infrastructure there was fencing and a reasonable sized sheep shearing shed with a water tank next to it. We left the property on the last day after viewing a most beautiful sunset amidst some beautiful scenery inspired by the possibilities the property offered. There were however some hurdles to get over to make it work, mainly the access.
Much due diligence was done on this property to investigate it. I had a lot of phone calls with the agent, several with the council, the forestry department, the fire department, a road engineer, and local contractors to do re-gravelling of the 8 kilometres of access track. A lot of time was also spent going over the proposed Sale Contract, deliberating and negotiating special conditions and liaising with our Conveyancer to ensure our best interests were met.
I went to the property twice in August 2010, the first with a fellow director and the 2nd time on my own (it was great to go for a drive out into the country and get out of the city); to meet up with the road engineer and the local contractors to get some quotes on fixing up the access track. I got 3 quotes which ranged from $86,000 to up to $200,000.
In addition to fixing up the existing access track to the required council and fire department standards, I found out from the fire department there was going to need to be another emergency access road/track via a different route and direction (one did not exist) for the fire department to approve our proposed development. I also found out from the local government council that without the fire department approval we would never get the local government council approval. We also needed a parking lot and potentially a helicopter pad for emergency services.
Whilst at the final TGM retreat in northern NSW in early January 2011 myself, another director, and a TGM member took a day to go see two properties in the area, but they were not suitable or within our budget.
A final trip was made to the main property of interest in late January 2011 by several TGM members including myself. The agent was kind enough to give us the key to the front gate and allow us to spend time on the property on our own. We spent two days going over this property and also investigating a neighbouring property which had recently come up for sale and a third property for sale about a two hour drive away. These two other properties turned out to be unsuitable mainly due to cost.
We had kept an eye on the market for properties in that area since July 2010 and the price comparisons showed this main property we were interested in was the best deal and also there weren’t any other properties in other areas which were better.
In February 2011 I finally received sample documents from the agent of the Conservation agreement which would be registered on the land title. After some time of reviewing this document with the other directors and discussion with the TGM members, we made the decision not to proceed with buying this property due to the costs of bringing the access track up to the required standard plus creating a second alternate route out of the property and the cost of maintaining them long term. Also due to the onerous conditions of the Conservation agreement – to keep the whole 2,500 acres free of weeds and limit the numbers of feral animals with culling – which would have taken too much effort and focus away from what we really wanted which was to have a place to develop and run as a retreat.
The retreat property search continued on with just the TGM members searching once TGM stopped running its courses. Since TGM fully closed down in Australia in 2013, the property search has been continued by members of the retreat organisation where possible, albeit with concern for the potential of hostilities towards the project as a result of the false allegations made against TGM and Mark.
Australian Retreat Property
In September 2010, all the Australian TGM members including the 3 directors of the retreat organisation (of which I was one) had a meeting over Skype with Mark. He proposed selling his property back to us for less than its market value but only for what was spent on it, asking as a condition of sale that we not spend too much finishing the renovations which were near completion but re-list it for sale again quickly, thereby giving away the profit to TGM’s retreat project.
Some of the members tried to talk Mark out of selling it for such a low price but he was adamant about it, as he wanted the organisation to benefit from the property. Myself and the two other directors of the retreat organisation agreed to the proposal to buy the property for the low price Mark offered it at, agreeing to his only request to not spend much finishing the renovations and putting it on the market quickly. All TGM members supported the decision. It was also agreed to obtain a valuation before entering into a contract.
I was amazed and taken aback at how generous Mark was with this offer and I felt like he was really caring and supporting us in making a retreat happen so that everyone in The Gnostic Movement could have a place for dedicated spiritual practice in nature out of the cities to come to and benefit from. And this offer was after he had already boosted TGM’s retreat funds by $100,000 from what it started with by buying the property from TGM years earlier at its then full market price.
After the meeting with Mark and before entering into a contract, a valuation was obtained from an independent property valuer who gave it a value that was about 30% more than what Mark wanted to sell it for.
In November 2010, the retreat organisation bought Mark’s property for about 30% less than its then lowest market value. This property was to be a stepping stone to getting a larger property.
Mark generously allowed us to only pay him just under half the agreed price upfront and for the remainder to be paid to him once we had sold it.
Before the sale was formally commenced, Mark had asked as a condition of the sale, that once TGM had purchased it, the property would be put on the market for sale straight away with minimal renovations. However, it was about another year before it was listed with a real estate agent. This was because the retreat company directors (of which I was one) and the renovation team now volunteering for the retreat company felt that we could make a bigger profit and sell the property more easily if we did more extensive renovations.
All in all, Mark had to wait for 3 years to be paid the second half we owed him for the property. Looking back on it, I regret my part in the lack of care towards Mark and for not fulfilling our agreement to not spend much in finishing renovations and list it for sale quickly. This was despite all the care he showed for us as exemplified by his selfless actions regarding this property.
He bought it at full market value which boosted the retreat project by $100,000 and he sold it back for approximately 30% less than its lowest market value so as to benefit the retreat project, a project which really was about helping people to develop spiritually which is what Mark is and has always been about. His actions in regards to this property show how genuine and selfless he is and that in no way is he “in it for the money” or for materialism but quite the opposite, he gives away money he could have had to spiritual causes.
Mark has consistently made many sacrifices over the years so others could benefit spiritually and his involvement in the Australian retreat project was no exception.
Despite Mark’s incredible generosity towards The Gnostic Movement’s retreat project, he was falsely accused of the very opposite through no fault of his own, but because of the decisions of others, and regrettably these lies spread unchecked for years.
I feel I should have said more sooner to help set the record straight. Through all this I have learned the value and the responsibility of speaking up to simply put the truth.
Mark is so good natured that he has beared all this unfairness without any negativity towards his attackers or those who could have done more to speak the truth. Mark once said that forgiveness does not mean a giving up of justice or a right to a defence but of all the negativity which can distort it. My experience has been that he is a living example of these words.
For now, the retreat funds are being held securely in a high interest bank account until the vision for a retreat property can be realised.
Dealing with Misconduct
In April 2009 two individuals were asked to leave the organisation due to misconduct, some of which I witnessed first hand. I was one of a group of TGM members who asked them to leave the organisation after we had considered the matter very carefully.
After a while they tried to get re-admitted to the organisation, but were unsuccessful. Soon after being denied re-entry to the movement and to posting on the Belzebuub.com forums, in May 2010 these two individuals started the vicious untruthful smear campaign against Mark and The Gnostic Movement. It seemed to me to be fuelled by their resentments and hostility, and had been planned for a while before it began, as the attacks started very quickly after they were last denied re-admittance.
After several months of the smear campaign beginning, a group of us decided to start our own unofficial website to put the truth to the lies and we used pseudonyms for ourselves (as were the attackers) however Mark was always fully named. Mark never approached any of us to defend him or the Movement.
Eventually we decided to start an official blog including the wider TGM community and some people started using their first names in their written and video testimonials and to blog posts whilst others kept anonymous pseudonyms. Pseudonyms were used to name the attackers, meanwhile Mark was always fully named in the attacks.
After several years of refuting allegations and repeatedly asking them to stop lying, and after TGM had to close its doors, in mid 2013, a group of us exposed the facts about the attackers using our full names. Along with separate legal measures taken against different contributors, this finally brought an end to their campaign.
I understand now this is what was needed in the first place, but for my part I lacked the courage and the full sense of responsibility at the time as up until then I was only partially defending using only my first name which contributed to Mark being left exposed on his own as the only fully named person and his reputation unfairly smeared for which I am truly sorry.